News in Pictures: For Hoodwinked Farmer, Land Is So Much Better

Text and photos By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA

MANILA — Maximo Sebastian found himself joining the day long protest rally in front of the Supreme Court (SC) last August 18. He was calling on the magistrates to reject Hacienda Luisita Inc’s (HLI) petition against the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council decision to junk the sugar estate’s stock distribution option (SDO) scheme.

Just last week, Sebastian was among the thousands of farm workers who signed the SDO option and queued to receive HLI’s so-called financial assistance package. One of the “financial package” receipts he was holding showed a gross amount of only P1.35 ($0.03) from the company.

Because the SDO option was not sufficiently explained to them, Sebastian said, they affixed their signatures, but now they have realized that they were hoodwinked by company officers.

“I feared then that I would not receive the money due me so I signed. Now, I want the Supreme Court to order that the land be distributed to us instead. Land is so much better than the pittance we received,” Sebastian said in Filipino.

The sexagenarian hoped to be allowed inside the SC to show the receipts he gathered from other beneficiaries from Barangay Asturias, Tarlac City located inside the vast Hacienda Luisita estate.

The Luisita farm workers were joined by Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Anakpawis Party, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and other organizations.

In his speech, Anakpawis representative Rafael Mariano said the Cojuangco-Aquino clan, controllers of HLI, is showing their true colors and that the family really has no intention of distributing the land to the beneficiaries.

Expecting the oral arguments to last long into the night the farmers and their supporters declared their readiness to keep their vigil until the High Court adjourns. (

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